Silvia de Zordo

Silvia De Zordo picture website.jpg What we know on barriers to legal abortion and abortion travel in Europe

(Co-authors: Giulia Colavolpe, Giulia ZaniniAnn-Kathrin Ziegler,

In this presentation we will discuss the main barriers to access to legal abortion that women face in countries with relatively liberal abortion laws as well as the phenomenon of abortion travel, based on the few existing data/studies, and on our own research project on these topics, funded by the ERC (European Research Council). In many European countries with relatively liberal abortion laws, women face legal restrictions to abortion beyond the first trimester of pregnancy, as well as other barriers to legal abortion. Data collected by the Ministry of Health in the UK show that not only Irish or Polish women travel to England seeking abortion care, but also women from other European countries with much more liberal laws, such as Italy and France. Despite its relevance of from a public health and human rights perspective, this topic has not been studied by social scientists in Europe. In particular, no mixed-methods studies have been conducted to understand the reasons and experiences of these women. A pilot-study which was carried out in 2014-2015 with non-British resident women travelling to England, suggests that legal gestational age limits are among the main causes of cross-country abortion travel. Our current, five-year research project builds on this previous study and is envisaged as a ground-breaking mixed-methods investigation that will allow us to understand why these women have exceeded legal gestational age limits and what are their experiences with legal, procedural, and social barriers to abortion in their country of residence.

Silvia de Zordo (PhD), social anthropologist, Senior Researcher (ERC & Ramón y Cajal) at the University of Barcelona, has pioneered research on abortion and conscientious objection in Europe, particularly in countries with relatively liberal abortion laws – the UK, Spain, and Italy. Her research interests encompass contraception, abortion and conscientious objection in Latin America and Europe. Besides her training in social and medical anthropology, Dr. De Zordo also has significant public health experience, which is reflected in her publications on abortion in internationally renowned public health and medical anthropological journals. In 2015 she was awarded an ERC Starting Grant to study the impact on women of barriers to legal abortion in Europe (ERC Stg 2015 BAR2LEGAB).

Her recent publications include Reproduction and Biopolitics: Ethnographies of Governance, «Irrationality» and Resistance (ed. with Milena Marchesi), published by Routledge in 2014 and awarded CAR (Council on Anthropology and Reproduction) year’s Most Notable Recent Collection in Anthropology and Reproduction Book Award (October 2016), and A Fragmented Landscape: Abortion Governance and Protest Logics in Europe, edited with Joanna Mishtal and Lorena Anton and published in December 2016 by Berghahn Books (


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